Some Trouble With the New Economy

There was an article in Time Magazine this week, called The Robot Economy, [behind pay-wall] that described the growing use of high tech robots. There are numerous examples, and one described in the article involved self driving vehicles. Apparently researchers in Japan drove a convoy of automated trucks behind one truck driven by a human driver.

The article notes that some jobs, like most driving, requires human input, but many other jobs don’t. And as computers and robots get more complex they will begin to take more and more jobs. For example the number of longshoremen, who unload ships, is down by 90%, as automated cranes are used to unload containers, rather than humans unloading crates. An example that I am familiar with involved legal secretaries. When I began practicing law in the mid 1990’s, most law firms had many more secretaries than lawyers. But as word processing got easier, and as young lawyers who were comfortable with computers and had long practice doing their own typing replaced old lawyers who needed a secretary, law firms have laid off most secretaries. Today most firms have one secretary/assistant for every three lawyers. Longshoremen and legal secretaries were both fairly well paid jobs. And they are gone.

The fear, as noted in the article, is that at some point machines will be able to do almost everything that people once did. At that point, what will we do for work?

Author: Mike

I am a patent attorney in Lexington, Kentucky. My law firm web site is I ran for State Representative in 2010 and lost in the primary. Many of these posts are based on writing that I did for that election. Rather than delete it all, I decided to dump it onto the internet.

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